MOSCOW, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Former Russian soccer chief Sergei Fursenko has been cleared of stealing money while in the job although his lavish spending left the country’s FA (RFU) nearly $26.5 million in debt, state authorities announced on Tuesday.
“I can assure you that Sergei Fursenko personally didn’t pocket any money, we can now say it publicly,” Sergei Stepashin, the head of Russia’s Audit Chamber, told reporters.
The Prosecutor General’s office began investigating Fursenko last August, shortly after he quit his post following Russia’s disappointing showing at Euro 2012.
He was replaced by former Dynamo Moscow defender Nikolai Tolstykh, who said he was confident of solving the “many problems” in Russian football as the country prepared to host the 2018 World Cup.
Fursenko, who remained a UEFA executive board member, left the RFU facing a deficit of some 800 million roubles ($26.45 million), the authorities said.
The St Petersburg native, seen as a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin, hired Dick Advocaat as Russia coach in May 2010, paying the Dutchman a reported salary of almost $10 million a year.
The state authorities were also looking into the RFU’s financial affairs, including the contract details of Advocaat’s immediate successor, Italian Fabio Capello.
Media reports have accused Fursenko of paying high salaries and bonuses to RFU officials and picking a plush hotel in the centre of Warsaw as the team’s headquarters at Euro 2012.
Fursenko and the RFU have denied any wrongdoing.
Tolstykh said he had to borrow money in order to pay outstanding bonuses to the members of the Russian team for their performance at Euro 2012. (Reporting by Gennady Fyodorov; Editing by Clare Fallon)